Bacon: Bill would stiffen penalties for attacking utility workers

Posted by: Victoria Klimczak  | Friday, February 8, 2019 2:44 pm

Utility workers face inherent dangers on the job and, in rare cases, from customers they serve. This session, I proposed legislation that would increase the penalty for attackers who target on-duty utility workers.

In their normal course of work, utility workers are often dispatched to customers’ homes. While it doesn’t happen often, there are cases where these workers are attacked while on the job. For instance, if a worker is on a property to disconnect a service, they can be an easy target for angry and aggressive residents. They also run the risk of being robbed or assaulted while making repairs or reading meters.

In one situation shared with me by a member of the community, a utility worker was completing a job when a local resident’s dog attacked him. The worker pepper sprayed the dog in an attempt to defend himself, and the homeowner hit him as a result. Under current law, there are no specific penalties for harming utility workers who are just trying to do their jobs. I believe these individuals should be subject to a harsher penalty for committing battery against these workers.

Under my proposal, penalties for battery against a utility worker would be increased from a Class B misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony. If the battery results in a bodily injury, it would constitute a Level 5 felony. This change would give utility workers the same protections as others who often have to enter private property in their line of work, just like probation officers, EMTs, DCS employees or judicial officers.

Utility workers provide much-needed services that nearly all Hoosiers benefit from, and they deserve some peace of mind while on the job. Increasing these penalties could help deter these types of crimes and hold offenders more accountable.

As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback on this legislation as it moves through the process. Contact me with any input or questions at h75@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9643.

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75, 
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

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